BABYLON A.D. -
Canal Studio / 20th Century Fox
Rated: USA: PG-13
While the credits roll we see a dismal place. It's Russia and people live in abject poverty. Crime isn't simply rampant, it's the cultural way of life. People sell guns on the street alongside people selling questionable foodstuffs. Everything can and is bartered for and nothing has value. A fight breaks out as one man starts beating another. Fellow gun marketers are about to step in and protect one of their own when they hear the attacker's accusation, "That gun you sold me didn't work! I was nearly killed!" The other gun sellers back down. No one wants a reputation for selling bad product. As the attacker gets his money back, he storms off as the other gun sellers crowd around, promising to sell him a really GOOD weapon. The attacker's name is Toorop (Vin Diesel: IRON GIANT, PITCH BLACK) and its just another day in his life as he stops by the various streetside grocers and picks up a dead rabbit and some onions for dinner. Toorop's neghborhood makes the worst American slum look like Martha's Vineyard or Beverly Hills.
His dinner and apartment are violently interrupted by an invitation. Local crime lord Gorsky wants to see him. Gorsky (Gérard Depardieu: THE MACHINE - wearing an even bigger nose appliance than the one he wore for Cyrano de Bergerac) rides around the ruined city in his tank battalion, his personal carrier fixed up limosine style. Gorsky is rich enough to be poor in some countries, and his mobile home is also an ironclad prison. Still, when you want to do business in this dump of a place, Gorsky is your man. Someone has paid Gorsky a lot of money to get a hired killer. And Gorsky is hiring Toorop.
An unusual helicopter ride later takes Toorop to Outer Mongolia, just on the mountainous outskirts of Mongolia and a stones throw from Inner Mongolia. There Toorop is dropped off before a Nunnery to pick up his human cargo, a young girl named Aurora (Melanie Thierry: CHRYSALIS). Her protector and chaperone is Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh: THE HEROIC TRIO, THE HEROIC TRIO 2, THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR), who is there to protect Aurora from pretty much everything. Aurora grew up in the Nunnery and knows virtually nothing of the outside world. What she is about to see will change her life forever.
There is a lot of good going on in BABYLON A.D. The world of the near future is brutal for some, easier for others. It depicts the poverty stricken hopelessness of countries under the oppressive thumb of dictatorships, without glossing over the problems inherent in countries where everyone has a say in who will rule. The world, the environments, the people who live and survive in them, and how human life sustains itself in such places are all wonderfully expressed with no exposition. In fact, by the time the exposition comes near the end, its completely unnecessary, we've already got the gist of what's going on to enjoy the movie.
That is to say, the movie WOULD be enjoyable if it wasn't for,
SHAKEY CAMERA ACTION
I know of No One, who enjoys a fight or action scene where the energetic movement is brought about by shaking and banging on the side of the camera (or that such an appearance is given to suggest that). I know of No One who enjoys a fight or action scene where the energetic movement is brought about by 1 second (or less) flash cuts. I've never read an interview where a single director or producer could explain how in the hell such garbage, where you can't even see who is fighting or who is winning, is appreciated by audiences. But on message boards all over the Internet, I've read lots of people thinking that's the worst part of the movie. BABYLON A.D. has both shakey camera AND flash cuts. Was the cameraman having a grand mal seizure? And will someone please give the editor a drink to steady his tremens?
Before the movie came out, Co-screenwriter, Producer, and director Mathieu Kassovitz complained that*, after he shot the film, the movie was taken away from him by his producers. BABYLON A.D. is NOT the movie he directed.
"I never had a chance to do one scene the way it was written or the way I wanted it to be. The script wasn't respected. Bad producers, bad partners, it was a terrible experience."
- Mathieu Kassovitz
Well, okay. That kind of thing has happened before (THE PLAGUE) and would certainly explain the stupid flash cuts. It doesn't explain the shakey camera though. Were they actually on the set, demanding that you shake the camera?
This is also the second time he's voiced this complaint with an American movie. The first time was with GOTHIKA, where he pretty much said the same thing. So I have to wonder. Ten producers? This movie had ten producers? If the problems with BABYLON A.D. have to do with his bad producers/partners, then why does he continue to work with them? Here are his producers / partners
Alain Goldman (Producer) - worked with Kassovitz on THE CRIMSON RIVER and BABYLON A.D. Is currently working with Kassovitz on the upcoming THE BEAST.
Benoît Jaubert (Executive Producer) - worked with Kassovitz on Avida, Les Du Monde, Johnny Mad Dog, Enfants de Don Quichotte, and BABYLON A.D. Is currently working with Kassovitz on the upcoming L'Ordre et La Morale
Selwyn Roberts (Co-Producer) - worked with Kassovitz on Birthday Girl and BABYLON A.D.
So two of these ten producers were full-fledged producers, with all of the rights that go with that title. The four top producers, including Kassovitz, were trumped by the six lowest producers? And Kassovitz is blaming them all? Including the ones he's worked with before and is still working with on other movies? Really?
Well, if you say so.
BABYLON A.D. is based on Maurice G. Dantec's novel, BABYLON BABIES, and the screenplay was co-written by Mathieu Kassovitz (LA HAINE), Eric Besnard (LE NOUVEAU PROTOCOLE), and Joseph Simas. Ten producers and four writers. The words, "Too many cooks..." come to mind.
Actress Charlotte Rampling (ASYLUM, ORCA, IMMORTAL) makes a wonderful entry in this film as the High Priestess, and for a moment it appears as if she could be a powerful Gandalf or Darth Vader type character. But she becomes neither.
Also, when the primary secret is finally revealed, its amazing and interesting, but it really doesn't explain why everyone would want to either kidnap Aurora or kill her. In fact, since they know what she is capable of, its amazing that anyone thinks they CAN kill her.
So much potential that never pays off.
There are a number of things that don't quite pay off here, but there are a number of other things that are compelling enough to give BABYLON A.D. the potential to become a cult classic.
Three Shriek Girls.
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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